Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 343–355 | Cite as

Impact of a brief intervention on physical activity and social cognitive determinants among working mothers: a randomized trial

  • Emily L. Mailey
  • Edward McAuley


Working mothers exhibit high levels of inactivity, and theory-based interventions to bolster physical activity within this population are needed. This study examined the effectiveness of a brief social cognitive theory-based intervention designed to increase physical activity among working mothers. Participants (N = 141) were randomly assigned to an intervention only, intervention plus follow-up support, or waitlist control condition. The intervention consisted of two group-based workshop sessions designed to teach behavior modification strategies using social cognitive theory. Data were collected at baseline, immediately post-intervention, and 6-month follow-up. Results showed intervention participants exhibited short-term increases in physical activity, which were partially maintained 6 months later. Improvements in physical activity were mediated by increases in self-regulation and self-efficacy. This study provides some support for the effectiveness of a brief intervention to increase physical activity among working mothers. Future programs should explore alternative support mechanisms which may lead to more effective maintenance of initial behavior changes.


Working mothers Exercise adherence Social cognitive theory Physical activity Self-efficacy Goal setting 



This study was supported by the Coca-Cola Company Doctoral Student Grant on Behavior Research Fund and the Raymond and Rosalee Weiss Research Endowment from the American College of Sports Medicine Foundation.


  1. Albright, C. L., Maddock, J. E., & Nigg, C. R. (2005a). Physical activity before pregnancy and following childbirth in a multiethnic sample of healthy women in Hawaii. Women and Health, 42, 95–110.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albright, C. L., Pruitt, L., Castro, C., Gonzalez, A., Woo, S., & King, A. C. (2005b). Modifying physical activity in a multiethnic sample of low-income women: One-year results from the IMPACT (Increasing Motivation for Physical ACTivity) project. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 30, 191–200.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, E. S., Wojcik, J. R., Winett, R. A., & Williams, D. M. (2006). Social-cognitive determinants of physical activity: The influence of social support, self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and self-regulation among participants in a church-based health promotion study. Health Psychology, 25, 510–520.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (1988). Self-regulation of motivation and action through goal systems. In V. Hamilton, G. H. Bower, & N. H. Frijda (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on emotion and motivation (pp. 37–62). Norwell, MA: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Education & Behavior, 31, 143–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bartley, S. J., Blanton, P. W., & Gilliard, J. L. (2005). Husbands and wives in dual-earner marriages: Decision-making, gender role attitudes, division of household labor, and equity. Marriage & Family Review, 37, 69–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bekker, M. H. J., de Jong, P. F., Zijlstra, F. R. H., & van Landeghem, B. A. J. (2000). Combining care and work: Health and stress effects in male and female academics. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 7, 28–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bovend’Eerdt, T. J. H., Botell, R. E., & Wade, D. T. (2009). Writing SMART rehabilitation goals and achieving goal attainment scaling: A practical guide. Clinical Rehabilitation, 23, 352–361.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, P. R., Brown, W. J., Miller, Y. D., & Hansen, V. (2001). Perceived constraints and social support for active leisure among mothers with young children. Leisure Sciences, 23, 131–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2009). Labor force participation rate of mothers, 1975–2007. Available at Accessibility verified August 29, 2012.
  11. Burke, V., Beilin, L. J., Dunbar, D., & Kevan, M. (2004). Changes in health-related behaviours and cardiovascular risk factors in young adults: Associations with living with a partner. Preventive Medicine, 39, 722–730.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Calfas, K. J., Sallis, J. F., Nichols, J. F., Sarkin, J. A., Johnson, M. F., Caparosa, S., et al. (2000). Project GRAD: Two-year outcomes of a randomized controlled physical activity intervention among young adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 18, 28–37.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2007). U.S. physical activity statistics. Available at Accessibility verified August 29, 2012.
  14. Cody, R., & Lee, C. (1999). Development and evaluation of a pilot program to promote exercise among mothers of preschool children. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 6, 13–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cramp, A. G., & Brawley, L. R. (2006). Moms in motion: A group-mediated cognitive behavioral physical activity intervention. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 3, 23.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cramp, A. G., & Bray, S. R. (2011). Understanding exercise self-efficacy and barriers to leisure-time physical activity among postnatal women. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 15, 642–651.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fahrenwald, N. L., Atwood, J. R., Walker, S. N., Johnson, D. R., & Berg, K. (2004). A randomized pilot test of “Moms on the Move”: A physical activity intervention for WIC mothers. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 27, 82–90.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fjeldsoe, B. S., Miller, Y. D., & Marshall, A. L. (2010). MobileMums: A randomized controlled trial of an SMS-based physical activity intervention. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 39, 101–111.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Floderus, B., Hagman, M., Aronsson, G., Marklund, S., & Wikman, A. (2008). Self-reported health in mothers: The impact of age, and socioeconomic conditions. Women and Health, 47, 63–86.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Freedson, P. S., Melanson, E., & Sirard, J. (1998). Calibration of the Computer Science and Applications, Inc. accelerometer. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30, 777–781.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Godin, G., & Shephard, R. J. (1985). A simple method to assess exercise behavior in the community. Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Sciences, 10, 141–146.Google Scholar
  22. Jacobs, D. R., Ainsworth, B. E., Hartman, T. J., & Leon, A. S. (1993). A simultaneous evaluation of 10 commonly used physical activity questionnaires. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 25, 81–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Long, B. C., & Haney, C. J. (1988). Long-term follow-up of stressed working women: A comparison of aerobic exercise and progressive relaxation. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 10, 461–470.Google Scholar
  24. Luecken, L. J., Suarez, E. C., Kuhn, C. M., Barefoot, J. C., Blumenthal, J. A., Siegler, I. C., et al. (1997). Stress in employed women: Impact of marital status and children at home on neurohormone output and home strain. Psychosomatic Medicine, 59, 352–359.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Marcus, B. H., Pinto, B. M., Simkin, L. R., Audrain, J. E., & Taylor, E. R. (1994). Application of theoretical models to exercise behavior among employed women. American Journal of Health Promotion, 9, 49–55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McAuley, E. (1992). The role of efficacy cognitions in the prediction of exercise behavior in middle-aged adults. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 15, 65–88.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McAuley, E. (1993). Self-efficacy and the maintenance of exercise participation in older adults. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 16, 103–113.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McAuley, E., Mailey, E. L., Mullen, S. P., Szabo, S. N., Wójcicki, T. R., White, S. M., et al. (2011). Growth trajectories of exercise self-efficacy in older adults: Influence of measures and initial status. Health Psychology, 30, 75–83.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McIntyre, C. A., & Rhodes, R. E. (2009). Correlates of leisure-time physical activity during transitions to motherhood. Women and Health, 49, 66–83.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miller, Y. D., & Brown, W. J. (2005). Determinants of active leisure for women with young children: An “ethic of care” prevails. Leisure Sciences, 27, 405–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Miller, Y. D., Trost, S. G., & Brown, W. J. (2002). Mediators of physical activity behavior change among women with young children. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 23, 98–103.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Motl, R. W., McAuley, E., Snook, E. M., & Gliottoni, R. C. (2009). Physical activity and quality of life in multiple sclerosis: Intermediary roles of disability, fatigue, mood, pain, self-efficacy, and social support. Psychology, Health, & Medicine, 14, 111–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pereira, M. A., Rifas-Shiman, S. L., Kleinman, K. P., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Peterson, K. E., & Gillman, M. W. (2007). Predictors of change in physical activity during and after pregnancy: Project Viva. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32, 312–319.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rovniak, L. S., Anderson, E. S., Winett, R. A., & Stephens, R. S. (2002). Social cognitive determinants of physical activity in young adults: A prospective structural equation analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24, 149–156.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sallis, J. F., Grossman, R. M., Pinski, R. B., Patterson, T. L., & Nader, P. R. (1987). The development of scales to measure social support for diet and exercise behaviors. Preventive Medicine, 16, 825–836.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Taylor, N., Conner, M., & Lawton, R. (2012). The impact of theory on the effectiveness of worksite physical activity interventions: A meta-analysis and meta-regression. Health Psychology Review, 6, 33–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Urizar, G. G., Hurtz, S. Q., Albright, C. L., Ahn, D. K., Atienza, A. A., & King, A. C. (2005). Influence of maternal stress on successful participation in a physical activity intervention: The IMPACT project. Women and Health, 42, 63–82.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Verhoef, M. J., & Love, E. J. (1994). Women and exercise participation: The mixed blessings of motherhood. Health Care for Women International, 15, 297–306.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Webb, T. L., Joseph, J., Yardley, L., & Michie, S. (2010). Using the internet to promote health behavior change: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of theoretical basis, use of behavior change techniques, and mode of delivery on efficacy. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 12, e4.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wojcicki, T. R., White, S. M., & McAuley, E. (2009). Assessing outcome expectations in older adults: The multidimensional outcome expectations for exercise scale. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 64B, 33–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Woodgate, J., Brawley, L. R., & Weston, Z. J. (2005). Maintenance cardiac rehabilitation exercise adherence: Effects of task and self-regulatory self-efficacy. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35, 183–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of KinesiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA
  2. 2.University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

Personalised recommendations